The demise of the stand-alone law school

Most law schools accredited by the American Bar Association are affiliated with a university. In the last quarter century, we've seen the slow demise of the stand-alone law school. Few are left.

In 1995, Michigan State acquired the Detroit College of Law.

Penn State in 1997 announced a similar plan to create a law school by acquiring the Dickinson School of Law. (Penn State would eventually have law schools at two sites, then split them into two separate law schools under the Pennsylvania State University system.)

In 2010, the Franklin Pierce Law Center affiliated with the University of New Hampshire.

Western Michigan University associated with Thomas M. Cooley Law School in 2014.

William Mitchell College of Law merged with Hamline University School of Law to become Mitchell | Hamline, formally affiliated with Hamline University in 2015.

The recent announcement that the University of Illinois at Chicago would merge with John Marshall Law School is the latest.

(I exclude for-profit schools from this analysis, which come with their own complications. But in 2012, Western State became a part of Argosy University. Savannah Law School recently announced its upcoming closure.)

I also anticipate that someone will point out omissions or errata in my assuredly-incomplete list....

At this point, then, there are only a handful of stand-alone law schools left. The recent news over tenure at Vermont Law School shows that without a university affiliation, weathering tough times can be a significant challenge for stand-alone law schools. How many might remain after the next quarter-century?

Apart from Vermont, there are California Western (in San Diego), Thomas Jefferson School of Law (in San Diego), South Texas College of Law Houston, New England Law | Boston, Brooklyn Law School, New York Law School, and Appalachian School of Law. (Again, please correct any omissions or errata!) (I originally included the University of California Hastings, but given its affiliation with the UC system, perhaps it's simply different in kind and should not be included....)

At this pace, we might expect another couple of closures or mergers in the next few years. And it's simply a demonstration that legal education is changing, and old stand-alone law schools are slowly becoming a thing of the past.

Note: this post has been updated thanks to helpful Twitter feedback and helpful comments!